East Coast Chair and Barstool Blog

Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Furnishing a Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop Counter and Menu

What do you want your customers to see when they walk into your coffee shop? Plush couch seating where they can enjoy a latte, while watching morning rain hit your front windows? A no-nonsense interior that is serves the utilitarian purpose of getting them in, out, and off to their work day?

Furniture may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when opening a coffee shop but it’s a necessary step that can set the tone for your business! Creating the atmosphere of one of your customers’ first stop of the day is surely an important task.

1. What kind of seating should I have?

The great thing about coffee shop seating is that it can be an eclectic mixture of seating: some bar stools here, chairs there, a loveseat by the window, the options are endless! So, if you’re focusing on which type of furniture you should get, consider the lifestyles of your target audience. Are you located on a bustling city corner where suits stroll in to grab their morning cup, or are you in a college town where students come to study and socialize Central Perk-style? If you have a portion of your menu dedicated to food, try out some booths, tables, and chairs. Or, go with a more bookish approach that oozes academia with couches, coffee tables, and a few bar stools at the counter.

2. How can I get extra storage space?

Use your space wisely! Get furniture that can pull double duty and have built-in storage areas that are hidden from your customers. For example, having a hostess station that is equipped with storage shelves underneath the surface can save your staff trips to your back area and make refilling stirrers, napkins, and sugar more convenient. If you’re investing in booth seating, select models that have removable seats for some extra space. With lusher seating like love seats or couches, you can find coordinating ottomans that can be used for silverware or menu storage. The right furniture can help cure your lack of closet space and shelves in your coffee shop.

3. Are these tables durable enough?

There’s no use crying over spilt coffee but there’s more to be said for the coffee cup. Many coffee shop owners forget to think about the effect their glassware will have on their table tops. Certain woods and finishes can be prone to scratching – especially since many ceramic coffee cups have a glazed bottom. Choose laminate, melamine, or Werzalit tops that are more resistant to scratches and the daily wear and tear of commercial environments. It also doesn’t hurt to select tables that are easy to wipe down and clean.

4. Should I have outdoor seating?

Outdoor seating can be a great advertisement for your business, and even better, you don’t need much of it. Just having a couple sets of tables and chairs by your entrance can call out to passersby’s that didn’t know they needed a cup of joe until now. Have your dollar stretch farther by choosing lightweight aluminum outdoor furniture that is easily stored for cooler temperatures.

Coffee Shop

Now that you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re ready to pick out your coffee shop furniture! For more information about choosing the best furniture possible for your coffee shop, give our customer care specialists a call at 800-986-5352.

Should I Have Round or Square Tables in My Restaurant?

Round vs Square Tables

The shape of a table is just the shape of the table, right? Wrong! The differences in round and square table tops represent a change in the flow of your restaurant and how easy it is to rearrange and accommodate various party sizes.

Round tables are a flexible option because of how many people they can sit. It’s much easier for a hostess to squeeze in an extra person at a round top without defined edges and designated sides of the table. Restaurant owners should consider their fare before choosing a round table. Because of the “squeeze” factor, you don’t want to be cramming people in if your meals require multiple plates and more space. Round tables, especially larger sizes, can take up quite a bit of space, creating the perfect visual effect for a more cavernous restaurant.

Square tables have a huge benefit in their versatility in that they are easy to push together to accommodate a larger party. Suddenly, your 15 table tops can transform into nine square tops and two rectangle tops by pushing three tops together. Having this kind of flexibility can be very advantageous if the party size that comes into your restaurant varies from night to night, or even the time of day. Our most frequent recommendation to restaurant owners is to order two different size tops that have the same edge length (such as a 30” x 30” and a 30” x 48”) so it’s easy to line up sizes when combining table tops for bigger parties.

If you’re trying to compare table shapes with how many can occupy each size, here’s a handy table to help:

Table Size (Inches) Table Shape This Table Sits…
24” Round 2 people
24” Square 2 people
30” Round 3-4 people
30” Square 2-4 people
36” Round 3-4 people
36” Square 4 people
42” Round 4-5 people
42” Square 4-8 people
48” Round 4-5 people
60” Round 8 people
72” Round 10-12 people

Another important to factor to consider when choosing between round and square tables is accessibility and ADA compliance. To accommodate space for a wheelchair, tables and counters need to be between 28”-34” tall and have knee space of least 30” wide, 27” high, and 19” deep. You should keep this in mind with your table top and base selection; some disc bases that have a solid, wider footprint can prevent a wheelchair from going in.

At least five percent (or one if your count is under 20) of your tables need to be wheelchair-accessible for your customers.

Using both table shapes in your restaurant can shake up your layout, especially if you’re working with a small space. There are a couple ways you can do this to add visual interest without seeming too cluttered. Restaurants that offer a private party room can buy both shapes, utilize larger round tables in the party room since they are best fit for bigger groups, and use square tables in the dining area where you have more flexibility. You could also put bar height bases under a few round tables and create high tops, leaving the rest of the dining room as square tables.

Whatever table shape with you choose for your restaurant, be sure to keep at least 54” between round tables and 60” between square or rectangular tables to create a manageable service space to keep both guests and your servers happy.

Need help getting started? Visit our site or give our customer care specialists a call at 800-986-5352 to choose table tops and more for your restaurant.

Summer Heat Sale

Summer is in full swing and your patio is being enjoyed by customers. As one of the first things customers notice about your business, your patio is your calling card to everyone that walks by. You want to send the right message to customers; One that says ‘Hey, come on in and enjoy a cool drink or great appetizer.’ It could be what propels them through your front door, instead of walking on by.

So if your outdoor area needs a little facelift, why not upgrade it for amazing prices by checking out our Summer Sale on outdoor furniture. We are offering incredible discounts on classic styles and new favorites. We have a variety of items: aluminum synthetic wicker, and poly lumber have all been discounted.

Worried about making sure that your outdoor space doesn’t look like it was put together with discount items? We have put entire collections on sale so that you can achieve the total look that you are going for.

All items are only available for a limited time and while in-stock. These items sell quickly, so act now to make your outdoor design dreams a come true all while staying in your budget.

The Complete Guide to Buying a Booth

Most restaurants and bars have at least some booth in their dining area, which is no coincidence because booths offer many benefits like comfort, privacy, and more space for customers. With their soft padded seats and backs, booths enable customers to sit back, relax, and fully enjoy their meal. The additional padding, paired with a high back, also helps to block sound and keep conversations confined to the booth, giving more privacy to patrons.

Booths are a favorite of customers, and the average customer spends more while sitting in a booth than at a table and chairs. According to a study by Cornell University on The Impact of Restaurant Table Characteristics on Meal Duration and Spending, booths received the highest spending per minute compared to other types of table and seating arrangements. On average diners spend $2.00 more per person.

With all the benefits booths have to offer, they are an important element of your restaurant. But, with so many options to choose from, it is hard to know where to start when deciding which booth is right for you. In this booth buying guide, we will walk you through the process: picking a design, selecting the materials, and placing your order.

Sizing

The most important dimension in the sizing of a booth is its length. The standard booth length is 48”, but larger sizes are common as well; a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 24” per person. From there you have the option of how tall you want the back. Back heights usually start at 36” and go up to 43”, which is the most commonly chosen height. Heights can be customized as well.  If you want additional privacy, you could choose a booth that is 60” or even taller.

Do you have an area of your establishment that doesn’t fit perfectly with the booth sizing we currently offer?

That’s Okay. We can make a custom size booth for you. All we need are measurements and a diagram

of what you want it to look like. If you want a large booth, for example, to cover an entire back wall of a

restaurant, then it will be made in 8-foot sections that then can be put together to create one long

section. We can customize any booth to fit your needs.

Shapes

To achieve the perfect fit you’ll need to consider what shape you want your booth to be. There are three traditional shapes for booths. The most common is the straight booth, which is exactly what it sounds like. The majority of restaurant booths are straight. It can be backed up against a wall or positioned with its side against a wall or window. It can also be double sided, so that you can use 1 booth to seat customers at 2 tables.

The second shape is the L-shaped booth, which is two straight booths pushed together to form an L shape.  L-shaped booths work well in corners and in areas where you want to create private little dining nooks.

The third shape is a U shape. It is three straight booths arranged to look like a large U.  It is commonly used to create small private areas that can seat entire families.

The fourth and only booth shape that we do not currently make, is a circle booth. We do this so our booths can be made in a timely fashion and can be sent to our customer as quickly as possible.

Materials

Once you determine the size and shape of your booth, you can now choose your materials and options. A few materials come standard in every one of our booths, including 2.5 pound density foam and high quality no-sag springs. Many other booth manufacturers use 1 or 1.5 pound density foam, a much thinner material that won’t be as comfortable, nor hold up as long. The higher density allows for more use without losing any integrity. We chose to use this foam to give our customers the best quality and value possible.

Our foam also meets the California fire code requirements.

An integral part of determining a booth’s durability and comfort is the springs. We use no-sag Leggett and Platt springs. These springs have a unique coil design that is responsible for the no-sag feature. In addition to these high quality springs we use paper covered wires that string from one end of the seat to the other. We do this for an added layer of stability and protection. If by chance one of the heavy duty springs does break (which is unlikely), the extra wire will hold it in place so that the user doesn’t feel a broken coil.  It also reduces the chance that the coil could poke through the vinyl.

 

Frame

All of our booths are made using wood, not particle board, which provides additional support and a longer lasting product.  Be wary of purchasing a booth that is framed with particle board, as it won’t be as strong.

The industry standard life of a booth is between 3-5 years.We warranty our booths for 10 years against structural problems because we are so confident in their construction.

The insides of our booths are constructed from solid beech and beech plywood. Any wood that can be seen on the outside of the booth is made of either solid beech or solid red oak, stained in the finish of your choice. The difference between these two wood types is the grain. Beech has a less pronounced grain giving it a more modern look while oak has a more noticeable open grain, achieving a more traditional wood look. Both woods are comparable in hardness and durability, so quality is not a factor in the decision-making process; it’s more about personal preference.

 

Cover

Next, you have to choose how you want to cover your booth. Most restaurants choose to cover booths in vinyl because it is a durable and easy to clean material that works well in a commercial setting. When selecting vinyl there are a few basics to guide you in your search. The thicker the vinyl (which is measured in ounces) the more durable.  The durability of a vinyl can also be expressed in a measurement called a double rub, which are a

measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance.

Double rubs are found through a mechanized test called the Wyzenbeek test, where a piece of cotton is stretched over a mechanical arm and passed back and forth over the fabric in each direction. Each back and forth motion is considered one double rub. The cotton duck passing over the fabric simulates the wear of a fabric being used as a seat cushion. The test is run in sets of 5,000 double rubs until the fabric shows “noticeable wear.” Anything between 15,000-30,000 double rubs is considered heavy duty and suitable for commercial use.  We use Naugahyde vinyl, which is made in the US and is certified for 250,000 double rubs.

We have many color options available to our customers.  We don’t stock every color, but if you would like to see a sample, you can contact the company that makes the vinyl and they will send you samples free of charge.

Perhaps vinyl isn’t your taste and you would like to have your booth covered in fabric instead.  If so, we can accommodate you. If you source your own fabric, you can send it to our production facility in Mercer, PA, and we can upholster your booth with it.  Be aware, however, that not all fabric is suitable for commercial use, so it’s important to check the fabric for its recommended use. Fabric is also tested in double rubs, you can check this number to see if it can be used commercially. Please note we do not offer a warranty on cloth fabrics because they are less durable than vinyl.

Finishes & Stains

Once you decide on the type of wood you would like, you need to choose what color wood finish would fit the style of your business best. We offer five different wood finishes for our standard, solid wood booths: walnut, cherry, natural, mahogany and black. If you have your heart set on an Urban Distressed or reclaimed wood booth, you have additional finish options available.

Extras

Finally, after you’ve selected all of your materials, you still have a few additional customization options available. Would you like to add some texture to you booth? Consider 3-channel seaming, two strips of piping that divide the back of your booth into three sections and add a linear visual to your overall aesthetic. You can use the same color vinyl or select an accent color for the piping to really make your booth pop. Another option is a pillow top. Similar to the look of a pillow on a bed, a pillow top is additional cushioning at the top of the back that provides additional comfort and texture. Finally, some booth designs can be fitted with a coat hook. This can be a useful addition to hold not only coats but women’s purses. Or perhaps, some vintage style tufting. All of these options are available for an additional upcharge.

We have compiled a few tips and tricks to help you make the ordering process even smoother.

Tips

Start Early

It is best to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. For a custom order, plan on a 4-6 week production time, plus the time it takes to ship to your location.  We often see restaurant owners who are so busy with the other tasks of opening/renovating a restaurant, that they wait to order their furniture until a week or two before the grand opening and end up having to sacrifice the look they want so they have seating for customers.  You’ll want to be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to have your establishment looking perfect before the inspection or grand opening, so factor this timing into your calculations.

Production for a custom order does not begin until you approve the invoice in writing, so that you know exactly what you’re getting. Once that signature is completed, the 4-6 week production time starts. Please note that custom orders cannot be returned.

Do Your Research

It sounds like common sense, but search for something that you like, and don’t settle. The internet is full of examples of beautiful booths; gather a few and present them to your customer service specialist to help them better understand what you are looking for. We do have an album that displays our previous custom booth orders on our Facebook Page to help you get inspiration. Pinterest is another useful place to search for ideas. Another low-tech option is to go to restaurants near you to take a look at their furniture. If you find something you like, take pictures, and share them with your Customer Care Specialist.

Know Your Space

Knowing where you want to place your booth is a great start when getting ready to order. Where do you want the top of your booth? It is important to measure for yourself so you can get a visual on the height and width of the booth. What is 36 in. in your head might not be what an actual 36 in. booth looks like, so take the time to measure it out for a clearer understanding. Most windows are about 36 in. in height from the ground, something you’ll want to think about when choosing your booth area. If you want to put your booth under a window, this height could work for you. If not, you might want to consider something taller. These are all things to consider when looking at sizing.

If you have a particular area in mind for your booth it is always good to measure that area. You can then give this information to your customer care specialist and they can make sure to note that for our Amish craftsmen to consider while designing/building your booth. Something to consider is if you have a 40 in. space your booth needs to be a little smaller to allow for the padding and the vinyl that covers it. Please speak to your Customer Care Specialist about this matter. If you are concerned about sizing, a drawing with measurements could be helpful in making sure your booth is as precise as possible.

Do not forget to account for “wiggle room.” It is important to allow enough space for your customers to enter and exit the booth.

Booths have a variety of benefits for both customers and restaurant owners.  Customers enjoy the comfort and privacy that a booth provides, while owners take advantage of the fact that booth customers tend to spend more money…it’s a win-win.  East Coast Chair & Barstool booths are made of highly durable yet comfortable materials and are handmade by our Amish craftsmen to your specifications. We are confident that you will be pleased once your booth(s) arrives at your door.

Once you have thoughtfully considered all of your options and are looking to order a booth give us a call at 800-986-5352! You will be connected with one of our customer care specialists who can help guide you through the ordering process.

 

Umbrella Buying Guide

Umbrella Buying Guide

Shopping for your restaurant umbrellas can be overwhelming. Decisions have to be made on the fabric, pole materials, how much shade you’re trying to provide, and who to purchase it from. Who knew there were so many questions that need to be answered so you can give your customers a cooler seat outside?

But your end goal is the same. As a restaurant owner, you want to find umbrellas that are durable and cost-effective.

Some restaurants make the mistake of using the freebie umbrellas they receive from beer or liquor sales reps. For the most part, it will take one very windy day to prove these umbrellas useless. A lot of care should be taken when purchasing an umbrella because the wrong umbrella can be a liability to your business.

How much do umbrellas cost?

An umbrella’s price point will correlate with its materials, meaning sometimes you can tell right away if the umbrella will be strong enough for a commercial environment. Aluminum umbrellas can run you from $200 to $600 while fiberglass umbrellas can go from $300 up into the thousands, depending on what features are included. If you are planning on using your umbrellas season after season, you need to factor quality in when calculating what umbrella is right for your business. Brand names can be a part of the umbrella’s price which is why it’s so important to analyze the umbrella’s materials. Our buying guide breaks down what you need to know about restaurant umbrellas and will give you the confidence to make the best purchase decision possible for your patio.

Types of Umbrellas

To better understand the buying process of an umbrella, you should know the types that are available and perhaps, the ones to avoid.

Free-standing/Table Umbrellas:

When you think of restaurant patio setups, you probably include an umbrella in your mental design. What you’ve most likely drummed up is a free-standing or table umbrella with canopies that are situated on top of an upright pole. Most often, these umbrellas are used in the center of a table top so that the canopy shades the table, chairs, and diners. Many commercial furniture retailers offer their outdoor table tops with the option of an umbrella hole. You’ll often see market umbrellas in commercial restaurants. Their octagon-shaped canopies and vented tops are a stable and a sizable option when it comes to pairing umbrellas with your table tops.

Cantilever Umbrellas:

Don’t want a pole in the middle of your tables? A cantilever or offset umbrella may be the way to go. These umbrellas stand out of the way but cover your space with an off-center pole that positions the canopy over the area without being in the way. Versatility in smaller spaces where there isn’t always room for free-standing poles, adjustability, and their strong durability are great perks of this type of umbrella. Cantilever umbrellas can be more expensive and often require a sturdier base than other umbrella types because of its pole’s offset position.

You may also see tilting umbrellas in your search, which are umbrellas that can be angled from their upright pole. Most restaurant patios will not have customers sitting there for the time it takes for the sun to gain a new position, making it an unnecessary function.

Anatomy of an Umbrella

Parts of an Umbrella

When it comes to umbrellas, there are some details that deserve mentioning to make sure your umbrella has the durability needed by the commercial restaurant industry. Here’s what you should pay careful attention to:

Finial– This piece anchors the top of the canopy fabric to the frame with function and can add a decorative touch.

Ribs– These are the skeletal system that holds out the canopy in the open position. How the ribs are assembled, how many there are, and the material can add strength to your umbrella. If it’s a lower quality umbrella, the ribs are often the first place to go, inverting your umbrella and probably snapping. Avoid this by making sure your patio umbrella is built with strong ribs to reinforce the canopy. Fiberglass ribs are the most durable material but you can also find wood or aluminum ribs. If a rib does break, you can often find a replacement but you should check the original manufacturer’s warranty first to find out what’s covered.

Hub– Where center ribs attach to pole, the hub is a crucial part of the umbrella’s framework. This allows for the attached ribs to open and close when the hub is moved along center pole.

Canopy– The fabric that provides the shade needs to be a good quality for your patio to hold up in a commercial environment. We’ll discuss the why there is a “right” canopy fabric later, but know that the canopy is your first line of defense against the sun’s rays. Some canopies also have vents, fabric layers that allow air to flow through, circulating it similarly to a camping tent vent. Other’s will have valances, fabric that comes down from the canopy and hangs around the perimeter for extra shade.

Pole– Besides the ribs that extend the canopy, the umbrella’s support system starts with the center pole. Whether offset or upright, the pole should be made of a high-quality material to withstand weather conditions. Pay close attention to the way the pole is constructed as some come as a single piece and others can be broken down into two. Poles that are a single piece are more durable in a high wind situation.

Base– The foundation of a good commercial umbrella starts with the base. Mobile bases can be made from heavier metal or plastic (weight is added with gravel, water, or sand) and can be wheeled around by tilting the umbrella and base back. These can be a good choice if you are constantly moving around your outdoor setup. Stationary, or fixed, bases are great for windy environments because they are attached to the floor, wall, or in the ground. These obviously cannot be moved around. Stationary bases can also add extra support for larger scale umbrellas.

Depending on if you have a cantilever or table umbrella, you can more aptly choose the correct base. Cantilever umbrella bases are often heavier because they must distribute the weight of the offset umbrella. You can often find table bases that integrate with your table top and umbrella for a cohesive unit and smooth design that doesn’t add a lot of extra bulk.

**It should be noted that tilted and pulley and crank mechanisms are not advised for commercial environments. These two ways of opening bring more liability than that of a manual push up system.

How big of an umbrella do I need?

Your umbrella size all depends on the area you’re trying to shade. It may seem obvious, but you’re going to want an umbrella canopy that stretches past your table to effectively cover the table, chairs, and your guests.

 

Size of Table (Round or Square) Size of Umbrella Weight of Umbrella Base*
24″ 5′ 50
30″ 5.5′ 50
32″ 5.5′ 50
36″ 6′ – 6.5′ 50
42″ 7′ – 7.5′ 50
48″ 8′ – 9′ 50
60″ 10′ 75
72″ 11′ 75
30″ x 48″ 8′ – 9′ 50
30″ x 60″ 10′ 75
30″ x 72″ 11′ 75
Weights are recommended when using a sturdy outdoor table. Heavier weights may be required on varying environmental factors. This chart does not apply to free standing umbrellas.

Why fabric choice is important

The whole point of an umbrella is to provide your guests with some shade and comfort while enjoying nice weather, which makes picking out the right fabric even more important. Material that fades not only looks poor on your patio, but also loses UV ray resistance, rendering the original intent of the umbrella ineffective. This can open your customers up to getting burned and lead them to making a different dining decision in the future.

Umbrella canopies can come in a variety of fabrics including plastic, cotton, vinyl, polyester, olefin, and solution-dyed acrylics. But to have the most durable fabrics and protect your customers, look for names like Olefin, Suncrylic, and Sunbrella. Each of these fabrics is solution-dyed, locking the color into the fiber and stabilizing pigments to be UV-ray resistant. These respected names in the commercial furniture industry will allow your dollar to go farther by choosing a resilient fabric that not only will continue to look great, but will also continue to shade your guests.

Choosing a patio umbrella for your restaurant can be overwhelming but now that you know what to look for, you’re a pro! You can successfully select an umbrella that will give effective coverage from the sun to your guests while they’re enjoying themselves in your outdoor space.

Questions about choosing your umbrellas? Call our customer care representatives at 800-986-5352 for further assistance. We’d be happy to help!

Can You Use Wood Tables Outside?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & BarstoolThe simple answer here? No, you should not use hardwood table tops outside your restaurant. Hardwood tables can include any sort of oak, maple, beech, cherry, walnut, or untreated pine woods.

Wood table tops are commonly used in restaurants because of their durability, strength, and the character they bring to your overall design. But to keep them that way, there are some rules you need to follow.

Climate control is crucial for the longevity of wood tables. Wood table tops should be in rooms that are 68°-72° with 40-45% humidity. This is extremely important, even when it comes to adjusting the thermostat (which should be done gradually). Wood tables will crack or warp in rooms where temperatures vary. Abrupt temperature changes, dryness, and humidity can all lead to the wood expanding or contracting, while losing structural integrity.

You should also avoid putting wood tables in direct sunlight, next to heat sources (like radiators or ovens), and under bright lighting. Even wood tops in storage should be in a climate-controlled area to retain their original state. Many customers try to put these hardwood tables under a covering, but the real issue isn’t just the weather; it’s the humidity levels. Climate control is crucial when keeping wood tops in their best condition, making it impossible to use them outside because you can’t control the humidity.

Another reason why you might not want to use wood tables on your outdoor patio is that you’re likely breaking your warranty for that table top. Before you ever put any furniture in your outdoor space, you’ll want to be sure that furniture item is warrantied for outdoor use. This is the best way to protect the investment you’ve just spent to furnish your restaurant.

If the wood look is a must for your restaurant or bar, consider wood look-alike. There are many textured poly lumber options out there that have the look and feel of a wood texture, but don’t require the rigorous maintenance.

Textured Wood Grain Finish Options

What will restaurants look like in the future? Notes From NRA Show 2018

The future of restaurants

Every year, we have the opportunity to exhibit at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, IL.  In addition to showing off our newest furniture collections and meeting with new and former customers, we also try to bring back some helpful information for our readers that couldn’t attend.  The NRA show is the premier event in the hospitality industry with the potential to set the tone and trends for the entire industry.

This year, we went to a session called “The Future of Restaurants”.  It was a panel presentation headlined by popular futurist, strategist, and author, Daniel Burrus, whose book “The Anticipatory Organization”, we haven’t put down since getting a free copy at the door.  Burrus was followed by 3 great presentations by Sarah Lockyer, Senior Vice President or Winsight Media; John Miller, CEO of Cali Group; and John Ha, Founder and CEO of Bear Robotics.  Each presented their unique take on how the restaurant industry is being disrupted by new technologies, and what the future holds.  Below is a short summary of their talking points.

Daniel Burrus photograph

Daniel Burrus: Hard Trends vs. Soft Trends

According to Burrus, the trick to finding opportunities and succeeding in business is identifying trends and distinguishing the hard trends from the soft trends.  Hard trends are trends that WILL happen, at least with a high degree (90%+) of certainty. They are based on facts, and driven by things like demographics, technology, and government regulation.  An example of a regulatory hard trend would be the state by state legalization of marijuana leading to opportunities for commercialization.  Soft trends, on the other hand are trends that MIGHT happen. They are educated guesses, but are sensitive to disruption, and can change at any moment.  In fact, they present an opportunity for you to change them, and influence the future.  One example of a soft trend would be which companies will emerge as the de-facto mainstream consumer marijuana brands; we can make an educated guess based on size, market share, products, etc., but there are no guarantees and a disruptive brand could take over the industry at any time.

Burris argued that the safe bet is to put your money on the hard trends.  So, the relevant question here is “What are the hard trends happening in the restaurant industry that will shape the future, and what opportunities do they present”?

The answer is the convergence of many factors: rising restaurant input costs and wage pressures, the increasing number of millennials and Gen Xers entering the marketplace, the widespread use of mobile devices, the growth and development of AI and facial recognition technologies, and advancements in the field of robotics and automation.

Sarah Lockyer photo

Sarah Lockyer: A Good Place to Start

As the Senior Vice President for Winsight Media and Restaurant Business, Sarah Lockyer likely has her finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in the restaurant industry, and the data to back it up.  So, when she started talking, we listened.  She gave an overview of the trends that are starting to gain traction in the industry now, and will continue to grow over the next 5-10 years.  The great thing about her presentation was that many of these trends are, or will be soon, accessible to all restaurants, not just chains and corporates with multi-million dollar budgets.

Ordering Kiosks – If you go to enough fast food joints, you’re bound to run across an ordering kiosk soon.  McDonalds is reportedly going to add 1000 kiosks to their stores per quarter for the next 8 or 9 quarters, so it won’t be long until they are pervasive throughout the country.  They are already widespread in Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia.  Ordering kiosks take advantage of many hard trends: a booming, tech savvy younger generation with disposable income; rising wage pressures that are pushing operators towards automation solutions; and cheaper touchscreen technologies.  So far, 13% of people in the US have ordered from a kiosk, including 20% of those from 18 to 44.  That number will increase as kiosks pop up in more locations.

Tabletop Tech – How do you get your guests to turn over their tables quicker, spend more, volunteer their data, and sign up for your loyalty program?  The answer just might be a tabletop technology solution like those from Ziosk and eTouchMenu.  According to a study from Cornell University, customers spent $3.61 more and turned over 31% quicker at one full-service chain restaurant when tablets were present on the table.  Researchers noted that the biggest gains came when guests could order refills and pay the check on the tablet without having to wait for the server to get to them.  With stats like that, tabletop technology could be the quiet breakout trend for years to come, and one that is becoming affordable enough for even single unit operators to consider.

Takeout and Delivery – As we’ve written about before, takeout and delivery is becoming an even bigger deal for restaurants of all kinds.  No longer only the domain of pizza and Chinese food, full service restaurants are now getting in on the action with partnerships with Grubhub, Uber Eats, Door Dash, and even Amazon.  Millennials and urbanites are driving this trend, with 49% of 18-34 year olds saying that they order food more often than they did 3 years ago.  If you’re in a metropolitan area and don’t offer delivery, chances are you’re missing an opportunity to increase your sales and get your brand out there.

Virtual Restaurants – Expanding on the concept of takeout and delivery are virtual restaurants, businesses that are set up for the sole purpose of serving delivery only meals.  Often started in shared “warehouse” type spaces, virtual restaurants save all the costs of starting a true brick and mortar establishment, reducing the risk of starting a new concept.  They rely on delivery companies like those mentioned above to handle the marketing and delivery of their food, and the only staff required are the cooks. If you are a Rockstar chef without the funding to open a full-scale restaurant, then a virtual restaurant might be perfect for you.  A virtual restaurant could also be the perfect expansion plan for a restaurant with a cult-like following that doesn’t want to invest in another traditional storefront.

Dynamic pricing – Uber does it.  So do airlines, hotels, and car rental places. So, why not your restaurant? The “it” that we’re talking about is called dynamic pricing, and it means nothing more than changing your prices based on demand; a throwback to classic economic theory.  When demand is high, say on a Saturday night when your wait time is 45 minutes, you charge more.  When demand is low, like Monday afternoon, then you offer a discount to draw in price sensitive customers.  The trick is to maximize your profits by striking a balance between the price customers pay and staying at or near maximum capacity.  In reality, dynamic pricing isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Lowering prices via discounts and coupons is great in off-peak times, and there are several apps like TasteBud that make it easy to manage, but raising prices during busy times is another matter.  Only time, and a few intrepid restaurant owners who are willing to take on the experiment, will tell if the restaurant industry can sustain a truly dynamic pricing model.

John Miller

John Miller: Data with a Side of Burgers

For John Miller, Co-Founder and Chairman of Cali Group, the restaurant of the future will be a data centric, automated organization, and he wants to own that customer data, just like Google owns online data.  Miller who has said that his chain Cali Burger was a “Technology company that happens to sell cheeseburgers” is building his business around a suite of technologies that are designed to collect that data and use it to maximize sales.

Facial Recognition for PaymentPopIQ is Cali Group’s company that develops machine vision technologies for the restaurant sector.  They are currently testing an ordering kiosk that lets you pay with your face.  You walk up to the kiosk, it recognizes your face, shows you your previous orders and favorite items, and then lets you place your order and pay using a credit card on file.  The machine will reportedly even check into your Yelp reviews to see if you’ve had any problems with the restaurant that require special attention from a manager.  This will give PopIQ a tremendous amount of customer data which it can use to create personalized deals that drive traffic.  However, whether or not consumers will view this as an invasion of privacy issue is yet to be determined.

POPIQ from WINTERSTONE on Vimeo.

Social Gaming – Another of Cali Group’s portfolio companies called Funwall is investing in social gaming.  While social and mobile games have been around for some time now, Funwall combines the games with incentives like in-venue only prizes that increase foot traffic to restaurants and build loyalty.  Honing in on the trend of a growing millennial customer base, Funwall provides restaurants an opportunity to create experiences, and separate themselves from the competition.

Smart Delivery & Shared Spaces – Basically a WeWork for virtual restaurant startups, Kitchen United is a company that provides shared kitchen spaces for delivery only restaurants.  As Sarah Lockyer talked about earlier in the conference, shared spaces enable restaurant concepts to save money while still having access to state of the art equipment.  Kitchen United offers even more value by providing business intelligence, and resources that wouldn’t be available to a restaurant going it alone in their own space.  Shared spaces are also a great place to network and share ideas with fellow chefs and restaurant owners.

Robotic Automation – As labor and regulatory costs (think OSHA) continue to rise, companies are looking to cash in on the growing trend of automation in the workplace.  Cali Group is no different, and their portfolio company Miso Robotics is developing an automated burger flipping robot aptly named “Flippy”.  Flippy uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to “see” burgers on the grill, flip them, tell when they are perfectly cooked, and put them on the bun.  Right now, Flippy still requires a companion human to load the burgers onto the grill, but we can see that step being eliminated in the future.  Right now, Flippy can cook up to 300 burgers per day, more than a human counterpart, which means that it is more efficient, cheaper, and more reliable than hiring human cooks.  As robots like Flippy become more prevalent in the industry, low paying jobs will get eliminated and will open the way for higher paying jobs like maintenance technicians, engineers, and support personnel.

John Ha

John Ha: Rise of the Machines

If there’s anybody who should know about the intersection between the hospitality industry and technology, it’s John Ha.  After he left his job at Google, he purchased a Korean restaurant in California.  As he related in his talk, he found that the work was harder than he expected, and he found that nobody in the restaurant was happy with the service: employees, customers, or himself.  So, he started to think about ways to improve the customer experience by making his employees more than just order takers and food delivery people.

Penny AI Driven Restaurant Serving Robot

His answer was Penny, a robot that does the grunt work of delivering meals tableside, freeing up employees to engage with customers and create a great experience.  Penny, currently in the testing phase at Ha’s own restaurant, uses artificial intelligence to navigate “her” way through the dining room, avoiding customers and obstacles, and delivering the food to each table in his restaurant.  Ha’s company Bear Robotics is already taking pre-orders for the robot.

Ha says that since he started testing Penny, his restaurant has seen an 8% sales bump, and an 18% increase in tips for his servers.  Whether that is due to the novelty factor of seeing a robot deliver your meals or an actual increase in perceived value of service is still up in the air, although Ha says it is the latter.  One thing is for sure, the rise of the robots is quickly turning into a hard trend that will need to be anticipated and adapted to if you want your restaurant to continue to compete in the future.

 

We really enjoyed attending this session and bringing the valuable information back to our readers.  Innovation is a moving train that can’t be stopped, so it’s important to stay current and adapt to the trends that will change the industry because, as Daniel Burrus said, “If you don’t seize the opportunity, you can be sure that somebody else will”.

 

Custom Upholstery Options at East Coast Chair & Barstool

A great way to communicate your restaurant’s unique approach is by considering custom upholstery for your booths, seating, and one of a kind items. You might be thinking to yourself that custom usually means expensive. Fortunately, because of our in-house team of craftsmen, we can offer our customers one-of-a-kind looks at affordable prices.

Booth Options

While we do offer a selection of quick ship booths, where our Amish craftsmen really shine, is in our custom upholstery options. Whether it is on a booth, seat, or a completely custom product, our custom upholstery options can take your design to the next level. Whether you are envisioning a funky vinyl color or a reclaimed wood booth with fabric backing and a coat hanger, we can make it happen.

Fabric and Vinyl

On our restaurant booths, you can choose from a wide variety of colorful vinyl options to find the perfect fit for your look.  Our vinyl starts at 26-ounce weight and can vary depending on your vinyl choice. All vinyl comes with a 1-year warranty.

 

An Amish-craftsman creating custom vinyl buttons for a tufted booth.

Perhaps vinyl isn’t your taste and you would like to have your booth covered in fabric instead of vinyl; we can accommodate you. You can also send us your own fabric, which we can use to upholster your seating as long as it is commercial grade. Not all fabric is suitable for commercial use, so please be sure to check the fabric you select for its recommended purpose.

 

Piping

Adding piping to your booth gives it just that little bit extra to tie your look together. Piping is extra vinyl that is put over the booth seams to create almost an outline of the booth. The sky is the limit when selecting colors. Matching piping to the booth color looks great and so does choosing a different color. It mostly depends on what you’d like your booths to say about your restaurant.

Tufted

One of our newest custom offerings is our tufted backs. Our many vinyl options can be used to cover buttons which are then each individually placed on the back of a booth to create a beautiful tufting pattern. This tufting not only creates a unique texture but gives the booth an upscale aesthetic that will take your design to the next level.

Seating

Seats

Booths aren’t the only products that can get custom upholstery. Many of our metal seating options can be customized as well. Any furniture with a vinyl seat can be customized. Love our signature Viktor, Gladiator, and Simon chairs and bar stools but want to offer your customers something comfier than a hard metal seat? Vinyl cushions can be added to your furniture to accommodate your clientele.

Totally Custom

With our in-house team of skilled Amish craftsmen, East Coast Chair & Barstool is able to create some totally custom products. For example, a customer recently requested an ottoman with a tufted top made of fabric. Their burlap style fabric with tufting not only looks great but can be used as storage too. The sides of the ottoman also are engraved with the customer’s logo.

Custom upholstery can add about 2-3 weeks to production time, but if you are willing to wait you’ll have a totally unique item to help your restaurant stand out from the rest. To guarantee your order arrives with time to spare, give our sales team a call at 800-986-5352 to explore all of your options.

Here’s What’s New for Your Restaurant in Poly Lumber Outdoor Furniture

New 2018 Poly Lumber Patio Furniture

If you’re like most restaurant owners, you’re too busy to worry about replacing your outdoor furniture. You need to find restaurant furniture that will last season after season and that you can be confident in. Which is why poly lumber is a perfect choice.

Poly lumber is a durable, weather-resistant material that’s great for any outdoor setting. It’s also an ideal material for commercial furniture because it can easily defend against daily wear and tear and is very low maintenance.

We are adding to our already large range of poly lumber outdoor furniture to give your business even more options when it comes to furnishing your outdoor space! You’ll find a variety of customization options including table, counter, and bar height seating and table options with our new Harbor and Montauk Collections. Check out what’s coming to TablesChairsBarstools.com in the next few months…

Harbor Collection

From seating to tables to Adirondack chairs, the Harbor Collection has a plethora of options to satisfy whatever kind of commercial furniture you’re searching for. This collection features a wide back, waterfall seat edge, and rounded edges. Shown in a textured wood grain and solid poly lumber combination, the Harbor Collection can be crafted by selecting any of our over 20 poly lumber colors. The Harbor Collection also has something for your waiting or lounge areas with Adirondack chairs and gliders. With so many options to choose from, your whole patio can be finished with the traditional, curved shape of the Harbor Collection.

Harbor Collection Bar Stool

Montauk Collection

We’ve brought the farmhouse style out to your patio with the Montauk Collection! The Montauk Collection embodies the rustic look by using squared off edges, wide supportive upper board, and hardy looking beams reminiscent of barn rafters. And although you can customize this collection with your choice of color, the Montauk Collection really shines in our natural looking, textured wood grain colors. Adding this low maintenance option to your patio can save your staff cleaning time and save your restaurant money since you won’t have to buy replacements year after year.

Montauk Collection Bar Stool

Value Adirondack Chair

Want customers to sit back and relax on your patio or waiting area? Our brand-new Value Line Adirondack Chair is coming soon! This chair gives your deck a pop of color without hurting your wallet. It’s still made with quality in mind with our durable poly lumber, #316 steel hardware, and your choice of our six most popular colors. Now you can get the look of a traditional Adirondack chair on your patio or waiting area with at a price tag you’ll love.

Value Line Adirondack Chair The durability, low maintenance nature, and customization options are unsurpassable with poly lumber. Outfitting your restaurant’s patio with versatile poly lumber could be the best choice you make all summer and your wallet will thank you.

Stay tuned for more information as these products come available, this blog will be updated!

How Do I Maintain my Outdoor Restaurant Furniture?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

The sun is starting to shine, more and more of your customers want to eat outdoors. Before you say yes, you need to take a moment to consider the condition of your outdoor furniture. After an off-season spent in storage, there is a good chance they are going to need a little bit of maintenance.

Materials such as aluminum, poly lumber, and teak are commonly used outside because of their durability in outdoor conditions.  By taking a look at each of these materials, and more, we will examine the best ways to maintain and clean your outdoor furniture to not only keep it looking its best but to make sure it lasts for years to come.

Hardware:

Every year before placing your furniture outdoors, you should tighten any loose screws and double check for any missing hardware. As the season continues, be sure to check them intermittently and tighten as needed.

Glides:

This is also a great time to check glides. Replace any that are missing or broken to help protect your flooring and keep your furniture level.

Umbrellas: Umbrellas are a great way to make your outdoor areas more appealing to customers. To keep them looking their best, regularly wipe off loose dirt to avoid it becoming embedded into the fabric. For larger spots, clean with a soft bristle brush, soap and cold water as soon as possible to prevent staining.

Most umbrella poles can be easily wiped down with soap and water. If your umbrella pole has metal joints, then using a spray lubricant will help to increase the life of the pole. For a wooden pole, a paste wax applied with a soft cloth, will restore its shine and create a finish to help protect against scratches.

Wrought Iron/Cast Iron: As with all furniture items, it is good to regularly check for dirt. This can be sprayed off with a garden hose, but it is important to dry it completely with a towel to avoid future rust. To help extend the life of your wrought iron furniture, applying an automotive spray wax once a year can help to create an extra barrier against rust.

If rust does occur, sandpaper can be used to lightly sand the rust and then touchup paint can be used for coverage.

Poly Lumber: For light dirt, some soap and water should do the trick for poly lumber. For more persistent stains, you can use a power washer. If you don’t have easy access to a power washer, a magic eraser also works very well.

One of the biggest benefits of poly lumber is just how easy it is to maintain. Simply check to make sure that no screws have worked themselves loose and you should be good to go.

Aluminum/Stainless Steel: When pulling out your aluminum furniture for the season make sure you check all of the welds. It is important to check these pressure points to ensure safety. While looking at the welds you can look for any nicks or scratches on the coating. If you find some, they can be touched up with a damp cloth and a nonabrasive product, such as Soft Scrub.

Much of the aluminum/stainless steel items on the market today are powder coated and rust proof but be sure to check with the manufacturer before you make assumptions. If the furniture isn’t, you can use a paste wax to help protect the surfaces. When the furniture is in need of a good cleaning, some mild soap and water should do the trick.

Teak: Teak can be a bit of a temperamental wood when it comes to cleaning. To clean it and maintain the color, mix a solution of one cup of vinegar with one gallon of warm water. Apply the cleaning mixture to the teak using a soft plastic brush and gently scrub into the wood. Allow the mixture to sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

All teak furniture needs to be oiled once a year to prevent it from losing that beautiful teak color. If you see some water marks appear, they can be sanded with a light sandpaper.

IsoTop and Werzalit Table Tops: A big draw of these table tops is that they can be used both indoors and out. When used outdoors, these table tops are super easy to clean and can be hosed down on your patio using soap and water.

While cleaning, take some time to confirm that your table tops and bases are firmly connected. Flipping the table over and viewing it from underneath is a great way to check the screws and clean any of those hard to reach spots.

Finally, if you don’t use your outdoor furniture year-round it is best to store it over the winter months; it will increase the lifespan of your furniture exponentially.